Ali Noorani: Supreme Court’s Immigration Ruling Threatens Civil Rights

Based on today’s decision by the Supreme Court, law enforcement officials in Arizona can proceed to enforce a law that codifies racial profiling. The Court’s ruling will cause deep and irreparable harm to the civil rights of many of our fellow Americans.

Although the Supreme Court struck down three sections of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070, it legalized discrimination and harassment through its decision to uphold the racial profiling section — the pointy end of the S.B. 1070 sword.

The Supreme Court clearly recognizes that there could be problems with Section 2(B), the “show me your papers” part of the law that it allowed to go into effect. But by kicking the can down the road on this provision, it has said to Latinos, Asians and all Americans who look or sound like an immigrant that it is willing to wait and see whether their civil rights will be threatened.

That’s simply wrong. And sadly, it makes all of us less safe.

According to an amicus brief by state and local law enforcement officials, the section that will now go into effect “categorically requires that all state and local law enforcement officers verify with federal authorities the immigration status of almost anyone they stop or arrest in the course of their day-to-day policing activities.”

It legalized discrimination and harassment through its decision to uphold the racial profiling section — the pointy end of the S.B. 1070 sword.

— Ali Noorani, National Immigration Forum, on the Supreme Court decision on Arizona's immigration law

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As a result, they went on to state, the law “hopelessly conflicts with vital federal immigration enforcement priorities while severely undermining vital law enforcement interests in preventing and solving society’s most serious crimes.”

In light of the decision, we clearly need bold action from our federal elected and appointed officials to defend the basic rights of all people, lead us forward together and take action on federal immigration reform. Now is not the time for speeches or hand wringing.

In this political season, we need leadership.

President Obama must ensure that the Department of Justice acts quickly to deploy civil rights monitors to Arizona. And the Department of Homeland Security must suspend the implementation of Secure Communities so infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and others cannot cause further harm.

We do not need presidential speeches; Latinos need protection from Arizona sheriffs who are already under investigation for abuses of power.

And candidates for elected office — Republican and Democrat — must swiftly renounce the ruling and commit to action on comprehensive immigration reform if they are elected.

Republicans who embrace discrimination as an instrument of public policy are on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of a diversifying America. Many Republicans, including George W. Bush and John McCain, have supported comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship in the past. It’s time for GOP leaders to get back to supporting workable bipartisan solutions.

In the meantime, additional challenges to the racial-profiling part of S.B. 1070 are waiting in the wings and could even come back to the Supreme Court. The court acknowledged as much even as it allowed the provision to go into effect.

At this defining moment in America’s history as a nation of immigrants, we must continue to fight to protect the basic rights all of us hold dear. These include the rights of all of our neighbors, no matter their accent or the color of their skin.